Brothers Keepers

Brothers Keepers



The Pequod Review:

Donald Westlake's Brothers Keepers is a charming novel about a group of sixteen cloistered monks whose midtown Manhattan monastery is threatened by corporate real estate developers. The book becomes a very good real estate drama and a love story — but, rare for Westlake, it contains almost no crime and very little outright comedy. Nonetheless, the book's protagonist (Brother Benedict, a wryly funny monk whose only form of travel is his weekly walk to Lexington Avenue to pick up the Sunday New York Times) is one of the more memorable characters he has ever created. And Westlake is such a great writer that even his romantic passages are tender and well-phrased:

She was perhaps twelve paces away, close enough for me to see her clearly in the streetlight glow, but far enough so that I could have taken evasive action. I could have turned about, for instance, walked back to Lexington, left to 52nd Street, left to Park Avenue, left past the Buttock Building, and thence half a block home. All in all, that's probably exactly what I should have done.

Well, I didn't. I continued the twelve paces forward, holding tightly to my newspaper and looking directly at her. She was wearing pants, and a dark-colored sweater, and some sort of hip-length jacket. She looked tall and slender and darkly beautiful. She was the refined essence of every electric peril I had sensed in the world tonight.

I stopped when I reached her. It didn't seem possible merely to nod and say hello and walk on by, so I stopped. But I didn't speak.

She did. "Hello, Brother Benedict," she said, and both her smile and her tone of voice were far too complex for me to unravel. Several kinds of humor and several kinds of somberness were so entwined in her voice, her eyes, the set of her head, the lines of her lips, that I merely let it all wash over me like a Russian symphony and didn't even seek for meaning. "I'll drive you home," she said.

"It isn't far," I said.

"We'll make it far," she said. Then she looked slightly more somber, slightly less humorous. "I want to talk to you, Brother Benedict."

Not all of his characters are well-developed — some of the other monks are indistinguishable from one another — but this is still a delightful little book.